The first part of the proposed revision creates the State College System as a constitutional entity. Fla. Const. art. IX currently provides the framework and governance structures for our public K-12 education system and public universities, but it leaves out one important public system--the State College System. Established in the 1930s, then as junior colleges, the Florida College System was created to ensure that all Florida residents would have access to higher education within a short drive. Over time, as the population of Florida has grown, the system has expanded to 28 public colleges in metropolitan, suburban, and rural communities across the state serving nearly 800,000 Floridians and awarding more than 100,000 credentials annually. (1)
The purpose of the Florida College System is to maximize postsecondary access for students, respond to community needs for postsecondary academic education and career degree education, and provide associate and limited baccalaureate degrees that will meet employment needs of the community and state. (2) These open-access institutions serve as a primary access point to higher education for high-school graduates and adults who want to gain a workforce credential or a bachelor's degree. Two out of three high school graduates start at a Florida College System institution, and one out of two juniors and seniors in our public universities transferred from one of the public colleges. (3) The Florida College System provides an affordable pathway to high-quality higher education for the underrepresented student populations that Florida will need to educate and train to be globally competitive--those who tend to be slightly older, working, and racially and socio-economically diverse. Ninety percent of Florida College System graduates remain and work in Florida. (4)
The first provision also constitutionalizes the current governance structure for the colleges. The current governance structure was established in 2003, after a 1998 Constitution Revision Commission amendment created a separate State Board of Education. A local board of trustees composed of community leaders governs each college and has a number of responsibilities, including ensuring that programs are responsive to the local workforce needs. To maximize alignment and coordination between K-12 and the colleges, the State Board of Education supervises the system.
This proposal, if passed, will make Fla. Const. art. IX an all-encompassing section...